Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Organized

Call me strange but I have a really hard time creating in a mess or sometimes creating at all if my house (or mind) is a mess. January is often organizing time for me. Fresh start, you know. Just like September. 

I haven't finished any Dear Jane blocks this week. I cleaned and organized instead. I'd gotten behind when I was working on the book and doll quilt club last year and never really caught up. I skimmed over things that needed to get done around the house and left them for another day. Every time I do this and then think about doing something creative, my mind switches to all the unrelated and unfinished things I still need to do.

I realize that the problem is that I get overwhelmed and try to do too many things at the same time. Then nothing gets accomplished. Ever notice that? If I do nothing about the messes that surround me, then that messes with my urge to create. I've found that if I make a list and finish just a few of these "things" that need to get done, I'm calmer and my creativity seems to flow better. So I'm trying to keep ahead and focus on doing maybe ONE thing instead of ALL things. 

When I'm organized and have gotten a few things off my list then I'm better able to immerse myself into a project without distractions. I know it's not the same for everyone, but keeping my sewing room organized is also crucial to my creativity. I hate wasting time looking for things I had a minute ago. That seems to happen more as I get older. Here are a few things that help me stay organized and creative. See if any of them work for you too.

A clean sewing table really seems to makes a difference. Even when I'm working, I try to keep the surface neat and use small baskets and pretty containers for holding things. I don't have a large or fancy sewing room with tons of storage and I have to make the best of the space that's available in my small house.

I like sewing in a space filled with natural light and I make sure my table is near a window.

This organizer tray is a great help. It's pretty and functional. Tools I use regularly go back where they belong when I'm finished sewing so I can find them again the next time.

A cutting table that sees the light of day helps me too. I keep a wire basket nearby to hold scraps of whatever fabric I've been using lately. If I need another piece of the same fabric, I can see it and pull it out instead of keeping all of it out to clutter up the mat.

After I've finished a few projects, I take 15 minutes to organize and store the leftovers according to color. My scraps can get out of control unless I find a way to stay on top of them. Throwing them into a large basket or box doesn't help me if I can never find anything when I need it. If you read the section in my new book about organizing your scraps then you know that I separate my larger cuts of fabric from the smaller pieces after they're cut. I place those leftover pieces in smaller drawers or bins according to color. 

This colored drawer system (Office Max) I use for my scraps seems to work better for me . . . 

. . . than this one. 

The really small scraps or strips get stored in zip lock bags (according to color, again) and placed in another bin. If I decide to make something using 2" squares or 1 1/2"  strips in certain colors I grab a bag or two (or three or more) and go at it.

For the past couple of years, I've kept  my Dear Jane supplies organized in an IKEA rolling cart so I can wheel it out whenever I have the urge to work on the blocks. Then, when I'm finished for the day, I put my book and tools away in the cart so I can find them the next time and wheel it right back in the corner. It seems to work for me and I have a feeling it's part of why I'm moving along on my blocks. The blocks, book and tools are always accessible if I have time.

*   *   *
It feels good to be organized and know where everything is located when I need to find something and go with a certain flow. It also feels good to be creative and productive. As quilters, we're constantly struggling with fabric messes. If you can create this way, then more power to you. I seem to be missing the gene that filters out messes LOL. Buy less fabric I hear people say! To me, the solution is not to simply avoid purchasing fabric. Buying new and pretty fabric is inspiring and it's often what drives me to create pretty quilts. I need it. I think we also need to get a handle on all of it and find better ways of storing and organizing before it overwhelms us and keeps our creativity level down.  

I love playing with my fabric but if my table looks like this all the time my mind gets too distracted and doesn't know where to go from here. I need to sort it.

Are there things that are holding you back from creating? I hope some of the organizing methods I've listed here help you or at least get you thinking about what's good for your own creativity. There are lots more tips in my Small & Scrappy book on storing and organizing your fabric. 

Read this if you're having trouble getting organized in general. I enjoyed reading the part about taking care of negative emotional frenzy. Here's another link to stopping the frenzy.  Have a great week!


Colleen said...

We must be genetically connected! I can't be creative, either, in a messy room. It drives me crazy and it drives me out of the room. My quilter friend told me she doesn't understand how I can keep my room so neat while I'm quilting. I can't do it any other way :)

McLibrarian said...

Hi Kathleen,
Ditto ditto ditto everything you just said. I can't accomplish anything if my house and my head are a mess! I have very little sewing space so it's very hard to find the right fabric when I want it. I have been successful in keeping my tools, notions, and other sewing supplies organized, much like you have with pretty containers, but the fabric is another story. We're planning a yard sale in the spring so I'm hoping to rid my condo of unwanted/unused "stuff" to make more room. Plus, my hometown has a quilters flea market in April, so I'm sorting out fabric, books, and magazines I know longer want. Sure hope this works!
I LOVE your new book! Thanks for sharing all you do!

Debra said...

I totally agree, Kathleen! I just finished reorganizing my small sewing room, sorting through fabrics, patterns, etc. I was motivated to do this because I am about to embark on a major quilt-making project, and I cannot work efficiently in chaotic surroundings. I purchased some decorative, yet functional boxes at Michael's, so there is now a place for everything, and it looks good, too!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Glad to hear I'm not alone! To many quilters a mess = creativity. I just can't turn off messes or distractions the way others seem to be able to do. I do purge my unwanted fabric occasionally to make room for the new.

Kathleen Tracy said...

I think when you have a limited amount of space like I do that only makes it worse if it's messy.

Rosemary said...

Triple ditto to everything. I am ... as one of daughters said ... the most organized disorganized person she knows. LOL I have to be organized so I know/see what I'm doing. Cannot function or be creative when surrounded by a mess. At the moment, that is my problem. Too much going on in my hear and I just walk in circles. My job this week has been to do just that. No, not walk in circles (although) but STOP and get things together and organized. I'm almost 80 and I am dizzy enough without all of this mess. Thanks for sharing and letting us know we are not alone. You are great and your talent is wonderful and creative. Thanks for sharing with this crafty lady!!

pens and needles said...

I am completely in accord with your line of thinking! A messy room leads to a messy frame of mind, and that is a killer when it comes to creativity! I am so thankful that I have a sewing room because for years I did not, and it was so challenging to get anything done because so much time was spent getting out and putting away of the things needed. But having a room doesn't mean I don't need to put away things! It feels so good to walk into the sewing room when it is tidy and neat and to get right to work! Thanks for all your good ideas!

Candee said...

I could not agree more Kathy! I wish I could create in a mess, but it drives me nuts. I'm trying to overcome this, at least a little, so I can spend less time cleaning & more time creating. But I feel so much more creative when things are in order. Glad to read there are more of us out there!

Granny's Button Box said...

Your messy sewing table looks wonderful to me, just love your fabrics! I took your advice last week and organised my scraps into colour cordinated zip bags which had inspired me to start a mini quilt project. Thank you so much much, my scraps now look usable instead of being a tangled mess. Sharon x

liz said...

Thanks for your advise. I do like to be organized. I use zipper bags for projects, then I just pull them out when I want to finish the project.I like the wire basket idea. Thanks.

linda said...

Organizational tips appreciated...but first I have to stop pining for that cute pincushion.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Linda - Stop pining! Pattern for the wool flower pincushion is available on my website -

kiquilter said...

I am a confirmed mess maker, yet I too am distracted by disorder. Thank you for the personal introspection which resonated with so many of us, and also for the orgazational tips. This was a very interesting and inspiring post. Now to get to work!

Jane Arthur said...

It sounds slightly strange but I also do much better when my sewing area is neat and tidy and am not fighting piles of stuff everywhere.
I also have small baskets or bowls or something cute to place tools
and supplies close at hand. I am envying the cute cart from Ikea and
have been wanting one for a long time. Great post and thank you for
sharing. Almost have the first project quilted from Small & Scrappy.

Anonymous said...

I too can not work in a mess! I also need to do a regular chore first otherwise I feel guilty sewing in my room. I just cleaned my room a week ago, had gotten out of control over the holidays. I too store all my scraps in a storage unit like yours. A color in every drawer and I have 2 of them. Pretty wood bowls for my pins, etc. I'm obviously not the only one out there that likes an organized room! Love your blog. :)
Jody Randall

Rose Prairie Quilts and Farm said...

I am like you and fund I get more done when my space is clutter free. Thank you for your tips


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